Palma de Mallorca Airports

Of the seven major international airports in Spain, determined by passenger numbers, three are on the islands. In fact, the third busiest airport in Spain is Palma de Mallorca International Airport (Aeropuerto de Palma de Mallorca).

palma de mallorca airport

During the early 1920s, two airfields were constructed close to Palma. One was at Son Sant Joan and the other was at Son Bonet. However, the first real flights were operated in 1921 by Aeromaritima Mallorquina as a seaplane service from Barcelona. This was a postal service.

In 1934 there was a plan to fly tourists to the island and flying schools were established at both airfields.

In May 1935 Lineas Aéreas Postales Espauiolas (Spanish Postal Airlines) was established and in August began flying between Madrid and Palma with an intermediate stop in Valencia, using Son Sant Joan field.
The airline exists to this day and is now known as Iberia. A year later the route was changed to operate from Barcelona.

Three years later Iberia and Lufthansa began operating out of Son Bonet. For several years Son Bonet was to become the civilian airport and Son Sant Joan was handed over to the military. During the Civil War, Son Bonet became a dual-use civilian/military airfield. A division of the Italian Air Force was there for a short time using it as a base to bomb the mainland on behalf of Franco. During 1946 San Bonet was provided with Customs facilities and became able to handle international traffic.

In 1954 Son Bonet received its first big groups of foreign tourists flown in mainly by BEA and Air France. Meanwhile, over at Son Sant Joan they were lengthening and paving the runways to enable F86 Sabre Jets to use the base.

However, in 1958 it was all change. It had become obvious that Son Bonet was unable to cope with the increasing traffic and there was no way that its runways could be extended so the decision was made that civilian flights would be moved to Son Sant Joan. A terminal and civilian apron were built to the south of the military area. On 7th July 1960, it opened to domestic and international traffic. Two weeks later the Government announced that urgent expansion was required.

palma airportIn 1962 passenger numbers reached one million for the first time and had doubled by 1965 and in that year work on a new terminal began. It opened in 1972 and two years later a second runway (06L/24R) opened parallel to the first. By 1986 passenger numbers had risen to 10 million and another new terminal became necessary. Work began in 1993 and what is now the terminal block opened in 1997 by which time passenger numbers were approaching 20 million.

The terminal comprises four modules, A and B are the two old terminals. C and D are the two new units. The airport can handle 25 million passengers a year (12,000 per hour). Last year it saw 29 million, so one wonders how long it will be before yet another module is required especially as numbers are increasing by over 10% per year.

During the summer months, the airport handles as many aircraft movements as Gatwick and on a really busy day, it can be in the region of 1,100 movements coming close to those of Heathrow. Over 70 airlines use the airport over the course of the year, many are summer visitors only.

Of the 10 busiest international routes, 7 are to German cities. Gatwick and Manchester at 5th and 6th are the top British routes and Zurich (10th) completes the top 10. For the 7 days commencing 14th October, the airport was due to despatch 877 aircraft to 64 airports in 17 different countries. Not to forget Son Bonet, it is still there but is relegated to private flying and light commercial traffic.


Remember that the first flight to Mallorca was a seaplane. There is still a seaplane base on Mallorca, it is a military base situated at Port de Pollenca. In recent years there has been an annual "splash-in" when seaplanes from all over Europe drop in on the base. This year the event was cancelled at the last minute. The Air Force blamed the local council who had voted against a plan to allow commercial flying into the bay. The town council says they have no wish to stop events such as the "splash in" which is a major tourist attraction. It remains to be seen whether next year’s event takes place.

After the 2015 event, the aircraft flew to the Mar Menor and landed at Los Alcázares to celebrate the centenary of the opening of the Air Force’s first-ever airbase the Los Alcázares Seaplane base! Its successor is now at St Javier. There is an aeronautical museum at Los Alcázares.